Dinner dishes go down one of two ways at my house.
First, is the “I am tired; Dad is gone; Leave me alone” method. This is when I send all the kids outside to play and I do the dishes all by myself. I tell them if they come inside, then they are on dish duty. They must take Locke with them as well. The kids love this method, and I don’t mind it either until I remember it is my job (remember this post?) to teach my kids some life skills.
That is where the second method comes in.
I affectionately call our second method the “We’re All in This Together” method. I hope you sang that title as you read it because that is what I do. I belt “We’re All in This Together” at the top of my lungs just like I was Gabrielle in High School Musical. (My kids love it when I do this. Wink. Wink.)
In short, no one leaves the kitchen until it is clean.
Here it is how “We Are All in This Together” works:
We draw dish duties at the beginning of the week from our dishes job jar.
Right now we only have 4 jobs (3 kids, 1 parent). Our jobs are
clear table/put food away
We only have 4 jobs because Locke is not on our official rotation just yet, but he does clear his plate. And one parent doesn’t draw a job because either dad or mom is the rover. The rover oversees the project, keeps the kids on task and fills in where needed. Also, to have one parent free is key to effective training.
We keep the dish jobs for a week so the kids can get proficient at each one, and over the course of a week the work load seems to balance out.
We all get up from the table at the same time and clear our own plates. Then I start the timer for 20 minutes and we get to work to beat the clock as a team. (We hope to get it down to 15 minutes as everyone becomes more skilled at the different jobs.)
Everyone is responsible for their own job first. But when they are finished, they look to see what else still needs to be done. Everyone helps out everyone.
I don’t want a “that’s not my job” or “I’m done with my part” environment. The goal is more of “I have taken care of my responsibility, now what can I do to help the rest of my team” kind of feel.
I am hoping to teach more than just how to do dishes with our second method. I want my kids to see how they can help others even when their job is done. I want them to see the family as a team sport, not an individual one. I want my kids to be perceptive to others needs around them. I want them to know how to work hard all the way to the very end.
Lofty goals? Maybe. We have a long way to go, but I already see progress.
For example, Croft and Elle worked to get the centerpiece back on the table because Crew was still wiping up the counters.
Crew took out the garbage because he was already done clearing the table.
Elle pulled out the chairs so Crew could sweep.
The family is working together and that makes me happy. We all have a sense of family pride when we beat the timer together.
“We are all in this together” method works best when
- There is room in the dishwasher for the dinner dishes
- I have cleaned up as much before dinner as possible
- Dad is home
- We are not in a hurry to get somewhere
Our second method is becoming smoother and smoother as the kids become better at their jobs (I still have to spoon Crew and Croft as they learn to sweep) and as they see others’ needs and how they can help. And it feels more and more like “we are all in this together” instead of “every man for himself”.